Our Gourmet: A cozy, rewarding Italian experience in Concord

April 11. 2017 8:43PM

Angelina's
11 Depot St., Concord; 228-3313; www.angelinasrestaurant.com

Hours:
Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Dinner: Monday-Thursday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 5 p.m.-10 p.m.

Cuisine: Italian.

Pricing: Appetizers, $8.50-$11.95; salads, $6.95-14.95; soups, $4.50 cup, $6.95 bowl; entrees, $16.95-$23.95.

Scores for Angelina's
Atmosphere: 19/20
Menu: 18/20
Food: 19/20
Service: 19/20
Value: 18/20
TOTAL: 93/100

We could easily spend a couple hours strolling and window shopping along Concord’s Main Street, which has become a jewel of a destination downtown. It isn’t often we’ve wandered off that path, and that’s been to our detriment as there are plenty of little gems tucked away on the side streets off Main.

One such gem, off the beaten path and down the hill of Depot Street almost to Storrs Street, is Angelina’s Ristorante Italiano.

A cozy basement space, Angelina’s is entered by walking down an alley to the back of the building, across from a trio of ominous and unattractive dumpsters. All that fades away as soon as you walk through the door, though, where the entrance opens to the small dining room holding six four-tops, four two-tops and a table for six the weeknight we visited. Brick walls are light beige, with Italianesque artwork and wine bottles as the main décor accents and soft jazz playing. Like we said, it’s cozy.

A basket of crusty Italian bread, olive oil for dipping and shaved parmesan were already on the table when Our Gourmet, the Dining Companion and the FussBudget arrived for our reservation. We enjoyed the bread with a softened butter flecked with a mince of olives and pimentos, a delicious, salty accompaniment to the bread, while we perused the fairly extensive menu offering a variety of appetizers, meatless pasta dishes and an assortment of entrees featuring chicken and fish.

For starters, the DC chose a Caesar salad ($8.95), which she deemed ordinary. The FB, age 7, had been excited all day hoping for some spaghetti and meatballs, a favorite of his that ranks up there with a cheeseburger and canned Italian wedding soup as his go-to dinner choices. Alas, Angelina’s doesn’t offer the dish, though our waitress said the FB was the second person of the night to ask for it. Instead, we ordered off the appetizer menu for him, opting for a cup of minestrone with meatballs ($4.50) to be served first, and a Mozzarella Fritta ($8.95) as a main course. OG’s entrée choice came with a choice of soup or salad, so we went with the soup, a tomato Florentine, as an opening course.

To say the minestrone was a hit would be an understatement. We have never heard the FB emote so loudly, nor so often, about a dish. As he downed the thick, smoky, tomatoey soup, chock-full of chopped tomatoes, green pepper bits and small beans, he called it “delicious,” “great” and awesome, using slices of bread from a second basket provided when our first ran out to sop up every last drop of broth. Between the soup and the bread and a San Pellegrino limoncello soda, the fried mozzarella went untouched.

OG’s cup of tomato Florentine disappeared in similar fashion. A pale red, the soup was thick and rich with cream, flecked with a touch of black pepper that offered a nice tingle.

Still steering clear of meat, the DC ordered Angelina’s Primavera ($16.95) as her entrée. Tender broccoli, succulent zucchini, eggplant, mushrooms and carrot — including a slice from what must have been one of the world’s largest based on its diameter — were delicately sautéed, still retaining a gentle crispness, and were served atop a bed of perfectly cooked angel hair pasta. All of that was tossed with the house Crema Rosa, a rich, tomato-based sauce rich with cream. A small taste of the pasta by OG reminded him of his grandmother’s chicken tetrazzini (another entrée option offered at Angelina’s that we vow to try on our next visit).

OG decided upon the Chicken Risotto ($18.95). A large bowl of risotto, cooked al dente — soft and creamy while still retaining a bit of bite, was stirred with a deep, dark red, somewhat spicy tomato sauce. Slivers of onion, red pepper that carried a slight crunch and mushrooms were mixed in as well. So were thin slices of Italian sausage, each the size and thickness of a quarter, as well as a healthy portion of a tender, large-diced chicken. All of it was infused with a smoky flavor and a spicy heat that slowly snuck up through the dish until we were pleasurably damp with sweat. Had a couple of shrimp been added to the dish, it would closely resemble jambalaya, Italian-style. The huge serving would easily make two meals, maybe even three.

Technically, we were all too full for dessert, but when our friendly waitress offered to bring a tray of the house-made confections over, the FB perked up. Perhaps because his favorite color is red, he fell in love with the red velvet cake, and we decided to sample one slice with three forks. A towering slice of bright red cake, each layer separated by a thick spread of cream cheese frosting, was served. The FB rallied out of his minestrone-and-bread-induced food coma and gobbled up half the slice.

We were impressed with everything about Angelina’s, but especially the food. DC offered, and we agree, that it will deserve return visits, be they romantic date nights, or a place to bring friends and family.


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